Despite breaking from CBS and migrating to its lower profile (and lower budget) home on The CW, Supergirl kicked off season 2 in a big way with what was essentially a two-part premiere that dropped a new Kryptonian (?) into the mix, guest-starred Kara’s previously absent cousin, and introduced viewers to the mysterious (and evil) Cadmus organization. Add in Metallo(s), a 100% unfunny Snapper Carr, and the promotion of Jimmy Olsen to CatCo managing editor, and it’s clear that this season is juggling quite a bit. Supergirl season 2 has set its sights pretty high — so high, in fact, that there are going to be two of us covering it for Loser City from now on. Tom’s off this week, which leaves me to dive into Supergirl 2.3: “Welcome to Earth.”
From the start, “Welcome to Earth” has shades of the season 1 episode “Strange Visitor From Another Planet,” tackling the battle between cynicism and hope with regard to alien visitors with superpowers — complete with an attack on a prominent public figure that is misattributed to an alien who poses no actual threat to humanity. Perhaps this is simply The CW’s spin on that episode, but it feels like an attempt at a do-over that expands on the initial ideas rather than simply repeating them, starting with Lynda Carter’s President and her proposed Alien Amnesty Act, which would grant the rights of Americans to visiting aliens.
If you think that premise is already loaded with subtext and potential social commentary, you’re not alone. Actually, there are… uh… lots of moments in this episode that could have parallels drawn to real world events. There are certainly going to be think pieces about those, but I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on what it means for Lena Luthor to be positioned as distinctly not (as) evil (as Lex) while simultaneously developing a device that can identify nonhuman DNA because people “deserve to know if someone is who they say they are.” Or what it means for Supergirl to say she understands that position, albeit while under the guise of Kara Danvers covering Luthor’s position for the CatCo article on the Alien Amnesty Act. Or how Kara name checks the Hatfields and the McCoys, but when she and Mon-El are the children of two now-extinct but formerly warring planets, it might be more accurate to compare them to warring nation states than feuding families (and let’s be real, Capulets and Montagues will likely be a better comparison by the end of the season).
The thing about Supergirl, though, is that even though it seems to be front-loading the season with potentially controversial topics, they’re essentially analogues the viewer can ascribe their own take to — except for one. Lynda Carter’s President Olivia Marsdin wasn’t the only new character introduced this episode; Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima) is introduced as a street level cop with a finger on the pulse of otherworldly life on Earth.
A self-described “non-white, non-straight girl who grew up in Blue Springs, Nebraska,” the writers come close to having Maggie vindicate the first season’s appropriation of the coming out narrative by saying her origin left her feeling as though she may as well have been from Mars, that their alien neighbors are no different. Is this a common feeling? Certainly. But when it comes on the heels of last season’s missteps, it leaves me uneasy. On the one hand, we finally have a queer character on Supergirl — a fun and interesting one at that — but like when episodes of The Flash come too close to real science to handwave their superhero science away, this moment felt like it came a bit too close to bludgeoning the viewer with the metaphor instead of just letting it be what it is and trusting them to draw parallels.
Did I say “we finally have a queer character?” I meant “we finally have two queer characters,” or did you miss Alex checking out Maggie’s ass as she walks away at the end.
All that said, the show lays down what feels like even more scaffolding after the two-part premiere, and with talk of Jimmy becoming the Guardian and the eventual crossover with the rest of the CW shows, this next season looks to be bursting at the seams. Which could fill out characters who need a bit of growth or cast them to the sidelines. These kinds of write-ups tend to talk about plot and character development in the episode, too, right? Yeah. Okay. Let’s hit on a few of those:
- Jimmy settles into the role of Managing Editor by the end of the episode, filling the vacancy in his character that was previously filled with “pining for Kara.”
- Winn seems to basically be the show’s Cisco Ramon / Felicity Smoak and is definitely at his best when he’s allowed to embody the spirit of a fannish young Jimmy Olsen around Superman (which is bad news for the rest of season 2, I guess); he’s not particularly exciting, but at least he’s not awkwardly pining for Kara either.
- Snapper is one of the worst stereotypes of a shitty entitled boss, which means we’ll surely find out how he changed from the happy-go-lucky teen he shares a name with and he’ll be a deep angry white dude instead of just an angry white dude.
- Another Martian is introduced.
- President Marsdin apparently doesn’t know the United Stated was gifted the Statue of Liberty by the French, and while there are a few cute winks at Wonder Woman, they make it clear she’s more than just a cameo.
- Cat Grant’s absence is felt hard, and Flockhart’s ability to convey a worldly optimism is unseen among the rest of the cast, leaving it feeling like there’s a heavy divide between cynics like J’onn or Alex and the hope of characters like Kara and Maggie.
All in all, Supergirl 2.3 left me excited for where the series is headed even with its missteps. Let’s see where Tom takes things for “Survivors.”